Alone in a Room on National TV

So you know when you're watching CNN or MSNBC or FOX news orPBS or whatever and they have some talking head on a monitor chatting with the host? Well here's how they do that when you're the guest: you are sitting alone in a black-walled, darkened room staring into a camera lens. You do not see the host. You do not see the other guests. You do not see yourself. You have no idea whether or not you are on-screen at any given moment. You hear the host and the other guests through the earpiece and you talk earnestly at nothing at all. It's a seriously weird deal. But that's how it goes, especially if you live in California and most of the media is in New York. I never get used to it. But I did it the other night because I was asked to be on the PBS News Hour with Gwen Eiffel and, really, how cool is that? Anyway, here's how it came out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pk_J6l_T2Jg&list=PLgawtcOBBjr-JeJG7XTRqPO-oeuWZK1De&index=2

Whoa. Hell no. Neigh, My Little Pony!

I'm trying to stay off blogging and social media for awhile while I launch a new project (procrastination is just too tempting) so this will be brief. I don't think there is much to say anyway except, whoa! Hell no! NEIGH to the evolution of my little pony!  

 

Here's Huffington Post on the new MLP, featuring a quote from me. I had a lot more to say, obviously, but what they quoted was certainly blunt.

Disney Princesses Circa 2012: I'm Too Sexy For My Gown?

So, while we're on the topic of how the Disney Princesses--the brand that parents go to to stave off premature sexualization of their innocent girls--are changing, let's take a look at Belle. Recall that the message of "Beauty and the Beast" is that true beauty comes from within (though you could also argue it teaches that if you hang out with an abusive guy long enough he turns into a prince...). Now let's look at how Belle has changed since her debut in 1991. Here she is in the movie, just a girl and her book, singing, as one does:

Here she is, also in the movie, in her iconic yellow gown, the one that has made countless preschool girls rip the necks of their t-shirts because "princesses don't show their shoulders" (people tell me that all the time):

 

Now here is the BRAND NEW BELLE circa 2012 from the Disney store site, pictured on a girl's nightie:

 

Whoa. Hotsy-totsy. Like  I want my 4-year-old wearing pajamas with THAT expression on them.

Moving on, check out Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) circa 1959:

 

And the new, 2012, souped-up version:

 

Nor is it jus t classic princesses that have been remade. Here's Rapunzel in her movie:

 

And Rapunzel on the Disney Store site:

 

Subtler remake, but big on the vapid.

So, still think Disney is the antidote to girls' early sexualization? Or is it the enabler?

As always, I don't think Disney is involve in a CONSPIRACY or anything. The company's wares reflect the changing taste of their demographic and it's the  change that's disturbing. It's also right in line with a study of published last month in the journal Sex Roles  on self-sexualization among elementary school-aged girls.  According to a report in Live Science, psychologists at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois used paper dolls to assess self-sexualization in sixty girls ages 6-9 recruited largely from public schools. The girls were shown two dolls: one was dressed in tight, revealing "sexy" clothes and the other in a trendy but covered-up, loose outfit. Both dolls, as you can see below, were skinny and would be considered "pretty" by little girls.

Using a different set of dolls for each question, the researchers then asked each girl to choose the doll that: looked like herself, looked how she wanted to look, was the popular girl in school, was the girl she wanted to play with.

In every category, the girls most often chose the "sexy" doll.

The results were most significant in two categories: 68 percent of the girls said the doll looked how she wanted to look, and 72 percent said she was more popular than the non-sexy doll.

"It's very possible that girls wanted to look like the sexy doll because they believe sexiness leads to popularity, which comes with many social advantages," explained lead researcher Christy Starr, who was particularly surprised at how many 6- to 7-year-old girls chose the sexualized doll as their ideal self.

Other studies have found that sexiness boosts popularity among girls but not boys. "Although the desire to be popular is not uniquely female, the pressure to be sexy in order to be popular is."

Back to Disney. The new princesses reflect the changes in how girls' see themselves (and what they want mirrored in the toys they choose--not only the new princesses but Monster High, and the upcoming Bratzillaz and Novistars dolls). As the first foray into popular culture, the new royalty--which Disney is the first to call "aspirational"-- also both prime girls for  that sexualization and fuel the trend.

As always, it's up to those of us who care about girls well-being--parents, siblings, aunties, uncles, grandparents, teachers, advocates, friends, counselors etc etc--to raise the alarm about what's going on and its impact. And to fight back hard and with lots and lots of fun.

 

 

A Spoonful of WHAT Makes the Medicine Go Down?

The garden used to be a wholesome place where you could wrest your child away from the tentacles of licensed products, right?  No more. the ever-brilliant Rebecca Hains has made me aware of  Burpee’s new Disney Princess seeds (oh yes, that’s what I wrote).

 

Needless to say, the ladies only grace flower packets—Mickey, Donald and the rest get  vegetables because, as Rebecca notes, “princesses are meant to be gazed on; they are delicate beauties...”  Too bad for  boys who will now doubtless be expected to reject the flower patch.

Meanwhile, Rebecca points out that while regular seeds cost about a buck a pack, The DP ones weigh in at $1.99.  That's quite the royalty tax Disney's levying ! Then there's the mark-up accompanying Disney Princess plant labels which cost a whopping $2.97 for 6 while the regular labels are a mere $1.99 for twenty.

 

 

 

 

Rebecca concludes so beautifully and succinctly:

The Disney Princess marketing machine is SO huge, so far-reaching, that it’s hard to avoid and even harder to resist. Parents sometimes blame themselves for their daughters’ princess obsessions, but who’s really to blame–the parents, or the billion-dollar industry that is invested in profiting by shaping little girls’ dreams?

I think the answer is clear. In this kind of context, it’s hard to choose freely–and that’s something to think critically about.

Actually, it's not a "billion dollar industry." It's a FOUR billion dollar industry (if you're only counting Disney). One that is about to get bigger. Because yesterday kicked off—wait for it—the first annual National Princess Week!! Yes, Disney has teamed up with Target to create a brand new holiday celebrating….Well, it’s unclear what they’re celebrating, but who cares! It's a week of festivities that allow—nay require—us to buy more newly introduced princess products!!!

The companies are positioning this "holiday" as embedded in other nationally-created occasions such as Mother’s Day. I suppose they have a point, especially when you recall that the woman who created that holiday died bitterly regretting its achievement, feeling that her "day to honor mothers" had devolved into little more than a consumerist "Hallmark Holiday."

But at least Mother's Day originally had some larger purpose behind it (actually its roots go as far back as 1870,when Julia Ward Howe, abolitionist and composer of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” issued a “Mother’s Day Proclamation” urging women, in the wake of the Civil War's bloodbath, to call for disarmament). The purpose of National Princess week, according to Disney, is to:  "showcase a variety of products designed to engage every princess," especially the 10th anniversary re-release of  the Princess Diaries movies on DVD, a book calle A Very Fairy Princess: Here Comes The Flower Girl and "an array of themed merchandise at Target stores....Blu-rays, books, toys, bedroom decor, games and more, inspired by Disney’s classic animated films, including Beauty and the BeastThe Princess and the Frog, and Tangled, starting at just $5." The Disney site also helpfully directs celebrants to the Target web site where you can make these purchases.

Well, if that isn't cause for national celebration, I don't know what is!

What’s most painful to me is that they’ve enlisted Mary Poppins, aka Julie Andrews (who stars in Princess Diaries and, with her daughter, penned the above-mentioned Fairy Princess book), as the holiday's putative Santa.

Everyone loves Julie Andrews. It’s churlish not to. I love Julie Andrews. Yet, as horrifying as it is, I must call her out. She betrays our trust and adoration when she disingenuously chirps:  "Joining Disney and Target to create National Princess Week is an extension of my work—a moment in time for children to celebrate their individuality and let their inner sparkle shine."

Because buying zillions of identical licensed products is always a good way to show your individuality?  Because narcissism is the highest form of self-expression? Maybe something went whack with Ms. Andrews' integrity after her most recent face lift (was that a low blow? Seriously--look at her! She can't close her mouth!) but does she really expect us to (literally) buy it when she's responds to  an interview question on "why playing princess is really okay" by saying:

My personal take on it is that they may be trying on for size what it feels like to be, say, a real lady [emphasis mine]. [It] perhaps, in some way, helps them find their own identity later in life. I do think fantasy and play of this kind — whatever it is, if you want to play at being a nurse, or if you want to play at being a florist — it's all important and should be allowed, because it would be an awfully sad place if we didn't try on those airs and have fun doing it.

It's an even sadder place when Julie Andrews has become  little more than a cog in the Disney Princess marketing machine, her Poppins-esque authority used to convince us that bombarding girls with billions of dollars worth of crap that bulldozes all other forms of play is the same thing as choosing to put on your mom's cast-off tiara and an old bedspread and flounce around the house on a rainy afternoon. In fact, that's kind of like cloaking a sales-gimmick as a  "holiday" in order to shove it down our throats.

I hate to say it, Mary, but sugar is not what's on that spoonful.

 

C*O*N*T*E*S*T* W*I*N*N*E*R*S!!

Last week my publisher ran a contest on my facebook author page  in which readers posted examples of the "princess industrial complex" run amok.

I could not POSSIBLY choose only three from the bounty posted. So I wheedled an extra couple of books out of my publisher. I wish I could put a winner's wreath (NOT a crown!) on everyone because each entry illustrated the reach and impact of princess/diva culture on younger and younger girls. You can see all entries by scrolling down the facebook page and hitting "older posts."
Meanwhile, would the winners  please email your addresses to my publisher at: Erica.Barmash AT harpercollins.com to claim your prizes!Now, drum roll:GRAND PRIZE (signed copy of CAMD; a copy of Girls Like Us  and a Harpercollins book tote): For Illustrating How Bombardment By Princess Products has Undermined Little Girls' Imaginations and Flattened their Individuality: 

Beth Tischler Becker. When the children in her daughter’s class "disguised" a flock of paper turkeys for Thanksgiving, the boys came up with a range of ideas—turkeys dressed as baseball players, Spiderman, grass(!). Every. Single. Girl (with the exception of Beth's own) decorated her bird as a princess. 4 out of 6 chose Disney Princesses. Limited, much? Beth also posted the Charlotte La Bouff doll— she's the white girl from "Princess and the Frog," who has, unlike secondary characters in any other Princess movie, apparently been elevated to princess status; the pending Eden Wood fashion line (so your daughter, too, can dress like the "Toddlers & Tiaras" star!!); and the Disney Princess "pop art toaster," which imprints crowns etc. onto your daughter’s bread). Beth, seems like you could've written "Cinderella Ate My Daughter" yourself!

RUNNER UP (signed copy of CAMD): Start 'em Early:  Katie Miller for submitting Fisher Price's "Brilliant Basics" girls' and boys' teething ring/rattles which highlight both gender hyper-segmenting and the downward creep of Kardashianization: The set for your "darling baby girl" features a purse, diamond ring and charm bracelet; your  boy gets a saw, hammer and wrenches.
RUNNER UP (signed copy of CAMD): Princesses Need to be White and Blonde Melissa Pantel-Ku for the Melissa & Doug hand mirror surrounded by (straight) blonde hair topped by a tiara. Note, that Melissa & Doug, with its old-fashioned, wooden toy ethos purports to be the more wholesome alternative to Disney and Mattel. RUNNER UP (signed copy of CAMD): Girls Will Only Like Math if They Think it's Pretty: Terri Wiley for the Princess Math app. (For more on this issue see my post "Science Sans Sexism")
RUNNER UP (signed copy of CAMD): Product that Only the Parents of an ACTUAL Princess Could Afford:  Hyphen Dorothy HP for the $47,000 pink princess Fantasy Coach bed.
RUNNER UP (signed copy of CAMD): For Making My Jaw Hit the Floor Sarah Lozoff for her photo of a female firefighter at Legoland (built out of LEGOS) who is putting on lipstick rather than battling blazes (the male police officer next to her is speaking into a walkie talkie).

Say "Nay!" to "My Little Pony" Talking Princess Celestia Doll!

Rebecca Hains,  best be known these days as the woman who got busted by the TSA for trying to take a red velvet cupcake through airport security, is, in her real life a media studies professor at Salem State University and author of Growing Up With Girl Power; Girlhood on Screen and in Every Day Life. She is also mother to a little boy who loves “My Little Pony,” a show, Rebecca says on her blog, that, like the beloved Powerpuff Girls, appeals equally to both sexes, defying the notion that boys/men won’t watch stories about girls/women. I have to admit I’m not a “My Little Pony” aficianado—my daughter was never  into them and I recalled the old show as being inane, and largely about  selling toys (the fact that the ponies were revived for the Hub, a TV station owned by Hasbro, and are skinnier and "prettier" in their new incarnation only reinforced those impressions). Creator Lauren Faust writes  on the Ms. Magazine blog that she was not initially a fan, either:

[Shows based on girls’ toys] did not reflect the way I played...I assigned my ponies and my Strawberry Shortcake dolls distinctive personalities and sent them on epic adventures to save the world. On TV, though, I couldn’t tell one girl character from another and they just had endless tea parties, giggled over nothing and defeated villains by either sharing with them or crying–which miraculously inspired the villain to turn nice.

With her new MLP, Faust claims she wanted to challenge "the perception that ‘girly’ equals lame or  “for girls” equals crappy," to show:

there are lots of different ways to be a girl. You can be sweet and shy, or bold and physical. You can be silly and friendly, or reserved and studious. You can be strong and hard working, or artistic and beautiful. This show is wonderfully free of “token girl” syndrome, so there is no pressure to shove all the ideals of what we want our daughters to be into one package. There is a diversity of personalities, ambitions, talents, strengths and even flaws in our characters–it’s not an army of cookie-cutter nice-girls or cookie-cutter beauty queens like you see in most shows for girls.

 

Whether you agree or not, I wonder  how Faust feels how her attempt  was distorted on the way to the toy shelves, turned into the very thing she once despised. Consider Talking Princess Celestia, whom you'll notice in the link is advertised as a toy that will "encourage your child's imagination." On the show Celestia is a white horse who rules the ponies wisely and well. But--uh-oh!--in the toy store she's turned pink! And what does pink usually mean? Well, Rebecca pressed Celestia's “cutie” button (gag gag) to find out: Let's recap: FIVE of Celesita’s  twelve comments are about appearance (“I love when you comb my hair!” “Oh, my hair looks beautiful.” “My wings are so pretty!” “My barrettes look so pretty!” “You’re beautiful”); two are about princesses; two are about friendship; two relate to activity (“Let’s fly to the castle!” “I will light the way!”) and one is the word “Spectacular!”

As Rebecca points out, that means when a child plays with this Princess Celestia toy, he or she will be bombarded with self-absorbed, pretty princess vanity, the kind, she says, the show is, happily, free of.

Why’d Hasbro do it? The same reason Nick makes the bizarrely-named Magic Hair Fairytale Princess Dora doll: they think they'll make a buck. only we parents can prove them wrong.

Incidentally, Celestia was originally supposed to be a QUEEN, not a princess, but according to Faust:

I was told [by Hasbro] that because of Disney movies, girls assume that Queens are evil (although I only remember 1 evil queen) and Princesses are good. I was also told that the perceived youth of a Princess is preferable to consumers.

She does not have parents that outrank her. I brought the weirdness of that situation to my bosses, but it did not seem to be a continuity concern to them, so I’m letting it alone. I always wanted her to be the highest authority, and so she remains so. And I certainly don’t want marriage to be what would escalate her. (Bad messages to girls and what not.)

[...]  I put up a bit of a fight when her title changed, but you win some, you loose some.

Indeed.

Rebecca suggests a few substitutions for the doll’s script. How about:

I’m a princess! I rule my country with wisdom. I love teaching my students. Do you love school? You’re so smart! You remind me of Twilight Sparkle, my best student. You’re beautiful outside and in Together, we can do anything!

A propos of that last phrase:  if you're interested in letting Hasbro know we want our girls to think, play and be something beyond pretty, pink princess, here’s Rebecca’s petition at change.org.

Please Judge this Book By Its Cover!

Just got a copy of the Cinderella Ate My Daughter paperback, hot off the Harper Press. Looks so eye-catching--and they kept the sparkles!  

I'll write more about real stuff soon (busy time) but just wanted to post this. I'm such a proud Mama.....

Oh, and it's in stores Jan 31. If you live in one of the cities I'm visiting, please come say hi!

Disney Agrees: Princesses are Unhealthy for Girls!

Did Disney blink in releasing its new "age-appropriate" Sofia the First princess character and TV show?  If  Sofia is deemed "just right" for preschoolers, after all, wouldn’t that mean the now re-labeled "adult" princesses…aren’t? Yet for the past ten years, the Princess concept has been sold (and sold and sold) to the exact same demographic with the Disney assurance that they are “developmentally appropriate,”  "safe," and imparting good values. No more. Sofia, they assure us, won't be about romantic fantasy. She won't need a prince to make her happy, a message that, according to one report Disney recognizes as a "legitimate worry" for parents and a "bad message for little girls." Yet when I spoke with Disney execs while reporting Cinderella Ate My Daughter, they poo-pooed my concern, insisting that the romantic story lines and passive heroines of "Cinderella," "Snow White," "Little Mermaid" etc.--which, again, they were shilling to the very same preschool girls they now say need rescuing from that message--were harmless fun. Can they have it both ways? At the time, execs also told me that Princess was  not I repeat not only about the dresses, makeup, bling and Kardashian-sized materialism. Or the $4 billion annually Princess pulls in for the company. No.  Disney Princesses were  about kindness and compassion and values.

Hey, guess what they’re saying about Sofia? She will, according to a Disney Jr. exec, have “plenty of pretty dresses and sparkly shoes,” but her REALY purpose is to teach  viewers that “what makes a real princess is what’s inside, not what’s outside.” Unlike, say, what the other princesses have been teaching viewers for all these years?

So I wonder, does that mean Disney won't be selling any of Sofia dresses, crowns, ways or other merch, so they can reinforce the idea that she's all about the inside?

Not hardly.Disney is nothing if not cynical. And greedy.

Obviously Sofia is all about the dresses and the shoes. If not, they could have made her an astronaut or, I know….an explorer!!! Oh, wait, we have that already.I wonder whether Dora would have been possible in today’s princess-obsessed culture. Especially given that Dora herself has both gone princess and undergone a makeover.

 

 

Maybe if Disney (or Nick, or Sesame Street Workshop or, gosh, anyone)  had 10 other “age appropriate” female characters who were not princesses; maybe if they had a female character whose appeal did not depend on her prettiness (because make no mistake—Sofia is very pretty and weirdly coy and, not for nothing, totally white and that is part of the package); maybe if they didn’t continually reinforce to girls at ever-younger ages that how you look is who you are while claiming to do just the opposite (witness the Tangled Escape From the Tower Lip & Nail Set! and the Princess with a Loving Heart Make-Up Kit.); maybe if they didn't prime them for premature sexualization while claiming to protect them from it; maybe if they didn’t exploit little girls’ fantasies and turn imagination into something to be scripted and sold; maybe if they didn’t provide the first entrée for so many of the issues I write about on this blog (and in Cinderella Ate My Daughter); maybe then I would feel less disgusted by this latest move. Instead, it just feels like the latest predatory example of Disney reaching for the crib.

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for the company to come out with a Snow White coffin. They’re missing a major womb-to-tomb  branding opportunity.

o

Wait! Wait! One more thing--you want a great princess story? I'll give you one. Just in time for the holidays. The Princess and the Pig. It looks hysterical--and right on. And you can bet it won't be used to sell your 3-year-old lip gloss!

Why Princesses Won't Be Presidents

Somehow I missed last spring's report from the commission on undergraduate women's leadership at Princeton. It seems one of the more important and damning pieces of research on gender to come out in a while. Was there a huge fuss and I was so busy with post-book publication that I missed it? Or maybe it came out during the two weeks I was out of the country. Anyway, here's the deal: over the last ten years, for the first time in the history of the university as a co-educational institution, there has been a significant decline in the number of  female students holding major campus leadership positions--something that, as the report's authors note, is not unique to Princeton. Plenty of elite colleges have taken their turn in the spotlight for their hostile environments towards women. (Yale, for instance, and MIT, which has undertaken a series of reports on the status of female faculty avaliable here.)

So, kudos to Princeton, first off, for having the courage to name and try to address the trend.  I suspect  the fact that the university has a female president made a difference in this respect. And that  is as good an argument as any for  diversity (of all sorts) among our leaders. Yet, apparently that urgency is not felt by the next generation. What gives?

One finding was  that female students (speaking generally, of course)  appear to value "high-impact" over "high-profile" roles. That may sound  superior --women rise above mere show-boating--but not when it forecloses opportunity. Women, according the commission found, don't put themselves out there. They also undersell their talents compared to men and are prone to making self-deprecating or dismissive remarks about their achievements. What's more,  they do much of the heavy lifting for the organizations to which they belong even as they eschew the credit.

Plus ca change, yes?

The commission also found  a renewed and growing confidence gap between women and men on campus (remember that one?). It was somewhat present among incoming freshman, then  widened as they moved forward  (I'm sure  parents paying $200K plus for their daughters' education were thrilled to hear THAT one).

But this wasn't just  a matter of psychology and self-sabotage. According to one news report the commission was disturbed to discover that, "both alumnae and current students told us that they had been actively discouraged from running for the most prominent roles, We heard that often enough to be sobered by it."

Sexism isn't pretty, is it? And speaking of pretty, here was another reason cited for women's reluctance to lead:

Undergraduate women at Princeton today sometimes feel that they are expected to measure up to an impossible standard. They are supposed to be smart, involved in many different activities (as are men) and ALSO "pretty sexy, thin, nice, and friendly,"

Or, as an alumna put it in a great Daily Beast article, "there is too much pressure to do everything, do it well & look hot while doing it."

Sounds more like Princess than Princeton doesn't it?

Again, I don't think this issue is unique to Princeton. Nor do I think  it's a coincidence that this decline began in 2000. That year marked the start of a profound shift  in the culture of girls, when a silent "as long as you look hot doing it" was grafted on to the mantra "you can do anything." That message has become more pervasive and skewed younger since then  (hey, someone should write a book about that--oh wait! I did!).

Ready for the double bind (or is it triple? Quadruple? I lose track). It appears that while  Princeton women don't feel they can  be taken seriously UNLESS they're hot, they  also  can't be taken seriously if they're too hot.  This fall, a freshman running for class president posted a campaign video on YouTube. Here's a description by one of his classmates in the school newspaper:

[He] is sitting in a leather armchair wearing a bathrobe and holding a drink. He addresses the camera and announces his candidacy. Then, a girl wearing only boxers and a men’s button down shirt enters — the boy shoots her a glance in annoyance. The girl seats herself on his armchair, flips her long, blonde hair and whines, “Come back,” to which he shakes her off, saying, “I’ll be back in a second.” She exits, and then he looks back at the camera, shakes his head and rolls his eyes as if to say, “That silly bitch.”

Incidentally, t only 1 of the  9 candidates for freshman class president was female; all the candidates for secretary were.

Consider this: two of the last three Supreme Court Justices appointed were Princeton women (the third was a Princeton man). Could the school produce an Elena Kagan or Sonia Sotormayor today?

On a related note I saw Miss Representation last night. Have you seen it? You must. Here's the extended trailer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5pM1fW6hNs

The Princeton report offered a few recommendations, including the importance of outreach and mentorship. You can read the summary  here. 

Eden Wood, Wouldn't She?

Even though I don't like to harp on Toddlers & Tiaras contestants (because as I always say, looking at their extreme behavior desensitizes us to the every day sexualization "regular" girls face, plus they get enough PR) I can't help but be fascinated--and concerned--by the trajectory of Eden Wood. I wrote about her and her mother, Mickie, in CAMD back when Eden was four. Now she's quit pageants and, according to People,  it's become clear as to why: she's got bigger things going on. This week 6-year-old Eden made her Fashion Week debut modeling footwear for the kids' line Cicciabella:

 

Ahem. You're supposed to be looking at the boots.

The evening's hostess, Kelley Bensimon  (could this GET any weirder?) said Eden was just having a "fun girly moment." Because, you know, she's wearing PINK and all. But I guess that's the kind of comment  you get when you look to   a Real Housewives cast member for insight.

According to People, the fashion crowd adores Eden. No surprise--the industry has a history of sexing-up little girls   from Brooke Shields (here at age 10--a cropped version from the infamous nude photo series by Gary Gross):

to 15-year-old Jaime King (taken by Nan Goldin backstage during a Lagerfeld show):

to that 10-year-old in French Vogue that caused all the fuss recently. It's part of the fabric of contemporary fashion to make little girls look like sexual adult women, then urge adult women to try to look like those little girls.

Heads are messed with on all sides of that equation.

And yes, I'm aware that the two photos above are taken by real-and-true artists while the Eden Wood shots were taken by, you know, whomever. That is not the point.

It's not just fashion-types who are noticing Eden. People says in addition to her  "high-end photo shoot," and being dressed by Marc Jacobs, she is going to be a guess star on the TLC series, Next Great Baker where they will make a cake in her image. According to her mom, she also has two animated films and a live action film lined up as well.

I'm starting to become kind of interested to see what happens to Eden over time. Not that I wish it on her, but if any child is set up to completely implode in a Lohan-esque way it's this one.

At the same time, if Eden (or, more pointedly, her mother) is truly successful at becoming a star through the one-two punch of  premature sexualization and self-objectification, that will, no doubt, become a strategy for others. Eventually, it could become  normalized: imitated until it is mundane, even expected not only for those pursuing show business, but for all girls, at least to a degree. That's the path we've been on, though it's been slower. We will stop seeing it as unusual. And then, to get her own shot at the limelight, the next ambitious little girl's mother will have to figure out how to top it.

Man, I'd like to know what Shirley Temple thinks of all this.

Disney Princesses: The Gateway Drug

I just received a press release (excerpted below) below from the Disney Store. Those  pseudo-empowering" Rapunzels and Belles are just  bait-and-switch for trusting parents. The big money--the REAL money (the $5 BILLION a year) is creating and selling to what here is called the "Princess Fashionista" and then keeping her business and loyalty as she reaches the high-spending tweens and beyond. Interesting  that girls here are no longer encouraged by Disney to live HAPPILY ever after but STYLISHLY ever after. Hence my theory that really, the thing to be concerned about these days is NOT the rescued-by-the-prince fantasy  so much as the way today's Princess culture  girls to a of femininity that is  sexualized, narcissistic, self-objectifying, vain, commercialized, self-objectifying....and need I say UNHEALTHY?

 

Fashionistas receive the royal treatment with an enchanted evening of pampering and accessorizing, Disney-style

PASADENA, Calif., September 7, 2011–Disney Store will celebrate New York City’s Fashion’s Night Out with an event fit for royalty, inspiring its guests to live ‘stylish ever after’. Disney Store Times Square will host an array of fashionably fun festivities on September 8, 2011 from 4 p.m.-11 p.m., highlighting the newest Disney-inspired lifestyle product lines. Guests will be treated to a magical evening including free mini-manicures with the new runway-inspired Disney Princess Designer Collection nail polish, featuring hues ranging from Snow White's luscious apple red to Belle's gleaming gold. Guests will be able to customize their very own bracelet at the Kidada for Disney Store charm bar, and be the first to get a sneak preview of the latest Disney Store fragrance inspired by Tinker Bell—Pixie Dust.

“We’ve created products that tell Disney stories with a fashion-forward spin with the goal to keep our guests excited and looking forward to what is coming up next,” said Robin Beuthin, vice president of creative for Disney Store North America.

Disney Store’s new Pixie Dust fragrance...captures Tinker Bell's personality perfectly – it charms with a subtle sweetness yet it also has a hint of sassiness that we love about the beloved Disney character.  Pixie Dust comes as a range of personal products including Eau de Toilette, Body Mist and Body Lotion, available in all Disney Store locations in fall 2011. Gift sets with body glitter, a roll on Eau de Toilette and lip gloss will also be available.

Here are some of the new products:

 

Yes, this is for your preschooler.

 

No that is not the new OPI line. It is, again, for your preschooler .

And, oh no, look what they've done to poor Mulan!!!

 

 

Sigh. Honestly, do you WANT your 3-year-old to be "fashion forward?" Do you want her even to know what that phrase means? And by the by, why does a preschooler need perfume, let alone one with a "sassy" edge?  Don't children  smell perfectly delicious as they are (assuming they are potty trained)?

Oh, and in other Mouse House news, Andy Mooney, creator of the Disney Princess line and head of consumer licensing for the past 12 years, resigned yesterday. Unclear where he will go but in an email to  his staff and colleagues he wrote, Together, we have radically changed the licensing business." Damn. You can say that again.

Polly Pockets Then and Now (and Monster High Again....)

I used to sort of enjoy Polly Pockets when Daisy was into them.  I think it was  their size. And they had some cool gear. And sometimes I'm a hypocrite, so sue me. Of course, Pollys, like most toys for girls,  had aged down: initially, for instance,  Barbie was aimed at a 9-12 demographic, but little girls, trying to be cool like their older sisters, start wanting them too and then they became anathema to the older girls. So now rather than starting with Barbies at 9, girls are done with them by 6. I write a lot about age compression in Cinderella Ate My Daughter and also how it's affected the nature of the Barbie fantasy. Anyway, the thing with the Pollys is that they are now marketed (according to Amazon) to girls ages 2-5. And those little rubber clothes and shoes are really impossible for girls that age to manipulate on their own. Resulting, in our house at least, in a lot of tears of frustration and many "dead Pollys" (dolls whose limbs had all been permanently broken off when clothing was forced on). Though we did get the occasional really cool art project out of it (using aforementioned limbs). So they had to be disappeared. They were too fuss-provoking, even beyond any premature sexualization or fetishized consumerism  they communicated.

While playing Polly with Daisy I remembered that I used to play it with my nieces, who are 10+ years older than she. And I was sure that we hadn't had these problems. So I did a little googling and it turns out Pollys started out COMPLETELY different than they are today and are yet another example of the way girls' toys have changed and narrowed in scope. Polly came on the market in 1989, created  by a dad who wanted to make a toy for his daughter that would  fit into her pocket. So he used a powder compact to create a teensy home for a teensy doll named Polly. The result was distributed through a company called Bluebird Toys and looked like this:

 

 

I'm not saying original Pollys were  stereotype-free or entirely anti-consumerist, but they were more along the lines of Fisher-Price "Little People." They look like children. And they were self-contained (though you could collect them). There was a cute cafe version and a classroom version and...well, they were all-in-all, even if just COMPARATIVELY, sweet.

Ten years later Mattel bought Bluebird and permanently replaced original Polly with "Fashion Polly," a taller, skinnier, curvy doll who looked more like this:

These Pollys were all about having the most accessories and clothing (which you could buy and buy and buy and buy). Not to mention the wildest parties. They had  more than one limo

There was  something called a "race to the mall" play set ("Polly and her friend can race through the big city and win the flag at the finish line, or dine, shop and stop for the view at the high observation deck") in addition to her REGULAR three story mall play set.

 

There's also the World Rockin' Magic Fashion Stage and, of course,  the Ultimate Party Boat Play Set (let's hope those Pollys stick to apple juice on the high seas). My favorite, though is the Ultimate Polly What Happens in Vegas set. Okay, just kidding. It doesn't exist, but you believed me for a second, didn't you?

I can't totally hate on Polly--I liked surfer Polly circa 2006. I dig some of her cars. The snow boards are fun. But more and more she has become just a tiny, hard to dress Barbie who is all girl power as the power to shop.

Speaking of age compression, I recently saw this interesting post on yahoo answers regarding Monster High. The dolls, you may recall, are supposed to be for older girls (those who had outgrown Barbie and Bratz) but they're drifting downwards rapidly.

"Okay so i'm going to middle school in the fall and will have a locker i want to print put som MH stickers (the cleo de nile and ghoulia yelps ones but i dont want to be the loser who likes MH!! HELP?"
Best Answer Chosen by Asker:
"my 5 year old girl loves monster high, but my 12 year old girl thinks that it is lame. you might be getting a bit too old to have 'characters' on your locker."
Asker's Comment:
"Thanks i will not be putting those on my locker i guess i will put a poster of johney depp on the inside
Thank you for saving me from the biggest mistake of my life!!!"
Voila! Monster High is now for 5-year-olds. Victoria Secret references and all.

Meanwhile, I continue to get feedback on the post I wrote ages ago on the dolls. Now the comments seemingly from girls themselves who understandably have a hard time seeing the bigger picture. I answered one this way:

"It would be ridiculous to claim that Disney Princesses or Hannah Montana or Bratz dolls or Monster High or  Twilight or whatever is inherently harmful. But each one is part of the round-the-clock, all-pervasive media machine aimed at girls from womb to tomb; one that, again and again, presents femininity as performance, sexuality as performance, identity as performance, and each of those traits as available for a price."

As readers scroll through this blog or read CAMD, I hope that's the point they get. Because once you see those connections, you can start working to combat them

For the 4th: Who are Your Heroines From US History?

People always ask me what girls could pretend if they weren't playing princess. That lack of imagination saddens me. How about some historic American girls or women (preferably with cool costumes)? Of course, we don't learn much about them ourselves, so why don't you tell readers: who ELSE could our girls pretend to be besides a princess (preferably with a cool costume...)? How about Laura Ingalls?

Or Sacagawea?

Or Marian Anderson?

This is the age of the internet--it's easy to educate yourself and expand your daughter's imagination.

And what could be more American than fighting for independence from (Disney) royalty?

"The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world."

 

 

For July 4th: Instead of Cinderella, How About Dressing as Lady Liberty?

I love this article  about Princess culture and patriotism from the El Paso Times by Kate Feuille. It starts with the author mulling over her abandoned  application for the Daughters of the American Revolution after spying a t-shirt on a girl that said, ""Remember, remember always that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists." Turns out the quote is from a speech Franklin Delano Roosevelt made before the DAR in 1938 (though the First Lady resigned her membership from the group a year later when it refused to allow  Marian Anderson, who is African American, to sing at Constitution Hall). Feuille goes on to write that she was struck not only by the t-shirt but by how odd it was to see it at all:

I've grown so used to seeing girls in head-to-toe glitter that seeing one bearing a political message startled me. I have been fuming over the princess-ization of our daughters ever since the arrival of 14 princess-themed birthday invitations in one week.

And then:

In America, we don't have princesses, I lecture, when my daughter asked to decorate her bedroom in Disney. Your ancestors came to this country to escape the oppression of divine right, primogeniture, and other accidents of birth.

At Ella's kindergarten graduation the kids were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. It befuddled me that the girl who replied "cat" got uproarious laughter while the "princess" response was met with abject approval.

When I'm calmer, I can take the time to tell Ella what we have in America in lieu of the princess. We have heroines like Sacajawea,

and Margaret Corbin, who defended Fort Washington alongside her husband and became the first woman to receive a military pension, and Francita Alavez, "The Angel of Goliad," whose actions saved many lives during the Texas Revolution. Not to mention the countless women, whose names are lost to all but their own kin, who quilted and cooked and doctored their families in harsh conditions across the country. Women whose skills ensured the survival of settlements that have grown into the shining cities we have today.

I understand that the princess story is appealing to the little girl in all of us. I got up early and watched Kate Middleton walk down the aisle and into the history books, too. ("She's wearing flats under that dress," I whispered to my daughter. "Real princesses don't wear slutty shoes.")

So it doesn't really matter what you put on the walls or if your daughter is carrying a "Sleeping Beauty" lunchbox to school. What matters is what we tell them about America, about women, about their history, and their future.

At our house we complement Grimm's Fairy Tales with "Little House on the Prairie" and Maud Hart Lovelace's "Betsy-Tacy" series, based on the author's childhood in the turn-of-the-century Midwest. I show my daughter fading photographs of her great-great-grandmothers and tell her stories about the one who stitched the fraying quilt on her bed.

I tell my daughter, this is America. We don't do princesses.

 

Enjoy your holiday.

 

Pixar's Female Problem: Please Stop Asking Me, "What About Jessie?"

Awhile ago I posted some art for Pixar's upcoming film Brave, its first with a female protagonist. And, naturally, I pointed out that Pixar has seemed almost perversely incapable of creating a female protagonist and how utterly offensive that is since they've made films about Anyway, among the comments someone inevitably asked "What about Jessie?

What about Sally in Cars?"

 

I started to answer and then realized this deserved its own entire post. So here goes.

Let me begin with this: if a studio as innovative as Pixar made 12--that's TWELVE-- films with female protagonists and a few had perhaps 1 or 2 strong tertiary characters were who were male and maybe 1 in 10 male characters with ANY speaking parts at ALL  wouldn't you think that was a teensy-weensy bit disproportionate, minimally a failure of imagination and maximally openly hostile  in its dismissal of boys and men?

Would it feel an adequate comeback if I shrugged and said, well, there were kick-ass guy side characters who was love interests in one or two films. Jessie is great, yes she is. But guess what: THE FILM IS NOT ABOUT JESSIE. It's about Woody. And Cars is not about what the comment referred to as the "Spunky Attorney Car" (Jeez, does she even have a name)? It's about Lightening McQueen. It is NOT the same thing, and to even intimate that it is shows how inured you have become to the fact that  female characters so rarely play the central role. We are happy with the crumbs of being "strong" but completely unnecessary (really) side characters.

In Pixar's films, maleness has consistently been presented as "universal" as neutral. while femaleness is singular, and--even when a character is "strong"--she is  inevitably imbued with those particular stereotypically female characteristics: she is a love interest or a helper. She is caring. She checks out her butt in the mirror. It has never once been HER experience, HER feelings, HER complexity or crisis that drives the narrative. If it were the opposite and Pixar had NEVER made a film in which a male character's quest drove  the story wouldn't you find that a smidge odd?

In a marvelous post on this subject which I have only just now found, the blog Vast Public Indifference , written by a former elementary school teacher, asks: Why did Remy HAVE to be a male rat? Couldn't  Linguini have been female? What if Wall-E were a female robot? Or had no sex?

This blogger goes through every Pixar film, cleverly breaking it down for you so I don't have to. In fact,  I'm just going to repost her rundown here (it's from 2008. so before Up and Toy Story 3) I wish I knew her name, but I hope that posting this with her blog linked above counts as giving her credit where it is amply due. She says:

Toy Story: This buddy movie revolves around the rivalry/friendship between two male characters, Woody and Buzz. Female characters: Andy's Mom, Bo Peep, Mrs. Potato Head, Sid's sister Hannah, Baby Molly (we're scraping the bottom of the barrel here).

Grrl Power score: 0/10. The women in this story are almost entirely irrelevant.

A Bug's Life: This adventure story concerns the efforts of a male ant (Flik) who sets out on an adventure to save the colony from the wrath of a grasshopper gang. Interestingly enough, real male ants do nothing but eat and fertilize eggs, so Pixar had to go out on a limb to make this character male. [note from me (Peggy)-I point this out ALL THE TIME. Any ant you see out in the world is female. Same with Bees. So that Jerry Seinfeld Bee Movie? All those bees would beeeee female. Not in this man's Hollywood, though. Transgender bees! What next?] Female characters: Dot, Princess Atta, The Queen, Gypsy, Rosie.

Gender Equity score: 1/10. This film gets points for having more than three female characters (out of a main cast of 17). Unfortunately, I had to deduct points for the writers' going out of their way to turn a female-dominated community into a male-dominated movie. To what end?

Toy Story 2: More Woody and Buzz. But now we have Jessie! Jessie is awesome and we love her. Too bad the story is still about Woody's existential crisis. Female characters: Jessie, minor toys (Tour Guide Barbie, Mrs. Potato Head, etc.), Andy's Mom.

Girls Rock score: 3/10. Jessie scores three points all by herself for being present, having a personality, and kicking ass. But the movie isn't about her.

Monsters, Inc.: Another buddy movie about two dudes, Mike and Sully. Female characters: Boo, Celia, Roz.

Feminist Statement score: 1/10. Boo is adorable and Roz turns out to be Agent 001 of the CDC. But seriously, what little kid loves to play with her Roz action figure? Finding Nemo: Father/son bonding film featuring a male clownfish (Marlin) and his son (Nemo). I'm all for movies about fathers and sons and, in fact, this is my favorite of all Pixar movies. Still, Nemo doesn't put female characters front and center, and it probably shouldn't, considering the subject matter. If it were only one male-dominated movie in a well-balanced oeuvre, I wouldn't have a problem. Female characters: Nemo's dead mom (Coral), Dory, Peach, Deb, Darla.

Ally score: 2/10. Points for having an important female character. Not too many, though, since she is squarely in the selfless helper/moral center role. Should I give points for making 2 of the 8 fish in Nemo's tank female? Should I just be happy that any are female and not quibble on the 25% issue? Also, the elementary school teacher fish is male. Maybe because he's a science teacher.

The Incredibles: The story of Bob Parr's midlife crisis and how his family deals with it. Perhaps that's a little unfair — the whole family has problems that they work through in this film. Still, Bob's story drives the action. It's called The Incredibles, not Elastigirl Saves Your Whiny Ass. Female characters: Elastigirl/Helen, Violet, Mirage, Edna, Frozone's wife's disembodied voice.

Womanpower score: 5/10. Helen is a developed character with feelings and motivations. That gets us halfway there, even though almost all of the other superheroes are male (for no good reason). Cars: Douchebag hotshot (male) racecar Lightning McQueen reenacts Doc Hollywood. I hated this movie. Female characters: Sally Carrera, Flo, Lizzie.

Girls Are Not Just Objects of Male Desire score: 0/10. Honestly, Wikipedia lists 15 residents of Radiator Springs. Three are female. Also, girls can't be on Lightning's pit crew, but they can be his silly, preening fans. Ye Gods.

Ratatouille: Male rat (Remy) dreams of becoming chef and achieves his goal even though movie sidetracks to cover ludicrous and unnecessary romance between humans part way through. This is the kind of shit that bothers me: Why is it important that the rat have a penis? Couldn't Remy have been written for a female lead? Why not? Collette's right — the restaurant business is tough for women, especially when even the fictional rat-as-chef barrier can only be broken by a male character. Female characters: Colette, that old lady with the gun, um . . . maybe some patrons?

More than a Token score: 1/10. ZOMG, we have one female character. We'd better make her fall inexplicably in love with the bumbling Linguini, stat!

WALL-E: Robot somehow acquires human gender characteristics, strives to clean up earth, goes on adventure to space. Why does WALL-E need to be male? Why does EVE need to be female? Couldn't they both be gender ambiguous and still fall in love? That would have been a bold move, but I think it's safe to say that Pixar is less than bold on the gender front. "Hey, guys, we have this robot with no inherent gender identity. We want to give it an arbitrary gender. Maybe we could make it female. Yeah, no, that would just just be ridiculous." Female characters: EVE, Mary, maybe some of the dead ex-captains of the Axiom

Challenging Gender Stereotypes score: 2/10. EVE is the competent scientist-bot. Still, making something that is inherently genderless male because male=neutral is bullshit.

This is where the blog post becomes out of date. She surmises (correctly) that Up will be "another buddy movie about two guys. See: Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc." What she did not realize, of course, was that the only female character in the film died after the first 10 minutes. Nice.  And of course there was Toy Story 3. Jessie is back, this time more actively girlie. And Barbie, though amusing, is Barbie. I imagine her score would hover around 3/10.

And that brings us up to Brave (I am ignoring Cars 2 for obvious reasons. I talk about Brave in CAMD. Maybe it will be a great film--it probably will be--but it still irritates me that a team as creative as Pixar's, which has imagined so many extraordinary male characters, can't imagine a female protagonist unless she's a bloody princess. On this one,  Vast Public Indifference says:

OOOOOH! Somebody told Pixar that they needed to make a movie with a girl as the main character! So, duh, it's going to be 'Pixar's first fairy tale!!!' The main character will be, get this, a PRINCESS! But, since the Pixar people are probably good Bay Area liberals, I'm sure the princess will want to defy her parents'/society's expectations. Where have we seen that before, I wonder? No cookies for rehashing the same old shit. If we're super lucky, she won't marry the prince, which will allow us to cover the same ground that Robert Munsch and Free to Be You and Me covered in the goddamn '70s. Maybe it will be good, but no matter how good it is, it still PISSES ME OFF that girls get to be main characters only when they are princess (or marrying up the social ladder a la Belle and Mulan) in fairy tale worlds. Boys can be main characters anywhere, but if a girl is the main character, you can bet your ass it's a fantasy world. (Side note, as of 6/28/2008, the Wikipedia entry for this movie's premise begins, "In mythical Scotland . . ." Damn. I wanted to go to Scotland next summer.)

Please Don't Be Awful score: unknown, though the girl=fairy tale princess thing means they've got to work their way up from below zero in my book.

I suppose what makes me so mad is not that Pixar makes movies about male characters but that they seem to go out of their way to make sure that this remains the case...On several occasions (A Bug's Life, WALL-E), they have defied logic in order to make sure that the protagonist of their tale was male. When good female characters are part of the story (Elastigirl/Helen Parr, Jessie), they still focus on the male character's plotline and development. They make infuriating choices (female main character = princess in fairy tale). It's not just the stories they choose to tell, it's how they choose to tell them: in a way that always relegates female characters to the periphery, where they can serve and encourage male characters, but are never, ever important enough to carry a whole movie on their own shoulders. Unless they're, you know, princesses.

I love this woman.

Botox is Not the Problem

Yes, I know everyone's talking about that San Francisco mom  pumping Botox into  her 8-year-old.

 

That is so obviously sick. But it's so over-the-top, like the toddler beauty pageants, that I think, in some ways, it distracts us from the real issue.

The item I found more compelling this week was a study that found a third of clothing sold to girls ages 6-12 is sexualizing. Researchers looked at 5,666 clothing items (why not 5,6667? I don't know) on the web sites of 15 popular stores and coded them for sexualized characteristics: those that emphasized or revealed a sexualized body part, had sexy qualities and/or had suggestive writing. They also coded for childlike characteristics, such as fabric pattern (think polka dots) or a modest, non-revealing cut.

The good news: 69% of the clothing items had ONLY childlike characteristics. A mere  4% had ONLY sexualizing characteristics.

But here's the tricky part and what we often miss in hand-wringing over the extremes: 25.4% of the clothing had BOTH childlike and sexualizing characteristics. That's what I believe is confusing and controversial among parents. That's what's hard to navigate. I mean, whoever is buying that 4% overtly sexualized stuff, I don't know what to say. But when over 1 in 4 items in any store--and apparently more in "tween" stores like Abercrombie Kids--is both childlike and sexualizing, the message is far more pernicious. Because a parent can convince herself that maybe it's not so bad then. Instead of thinking that the mash-up is the problem. That dual message of childlike and sexual teaches girls that it is normal and correct, even as children, to view their bodies  as objects to be judged by ridiculously narrow (and  often sexualized) standards of attractiveness. And then to hang their self-worth on that.

Obviously, this is not only a problem with clothing--you see it everywhere. Look at the debate that is STILL going on on this very blog regarding the Monster High toy line. If there weren't something redeeming, fun, and positive about Monster High no one would buy it.  But it doesn't change the part that is not just inappropriate, but given the larger cultural context, potentially damaging to little girls' ideas about their own bodies, beauty, sexuality and self-worth. And when the two are mixed--healthy and unhealthy values and images combined--how are girls to understand it?

So, yeah, I get that people get upset about the Abercrombie push-up bikini for 7-year-olds (which, incidentally, they didn't pull off the shelves--they just changed the name!) or the Botox for 8-year-olds. All of it. But this mushy middle, this innocent-sexy axis is where the real conversation has to happen.

And just to bring it back to my favorite topic, princesses, Carolyn Castiglia wrote a great post on Stroller Derby yesterday noting that the Disney Princesses are getting slowly more sexualized themselves in the most stereotypical of ways. Check out these two images, and the rest that she's posted on that blog.

Sleeping Beauty (Aurora) then and now

 

Belle in 1991 and 2011: bigger eyes, slimmer face, coy expression....

The Princess & The Science Museum

We live walking distance from Lawrence Hall of Science. It is, in fact, the only thing we can walk to from our house, except for nature and it is really hard to find a good cup of coffee in nature. Anyway, all this by way of saying we spend a LOT of time at the science museum. In addition to the rotating exhibits, there is a back area where there are lots of activities involving sand and water and tectonic plate motion (California, remember?) but are mostly an excuse for kids to run in circles until they're tuckered out. In the middle of all of this is a big, meandering pond with a bunch of flat rocks one can leapfrog among and plastic dividers to raise and lower to create currents, dams etc.

Most of the girls running and jumping around were wearing leggings or jeans with t-shirts and sneakers. But there was one little girl, around 6 I'd guess, who was wearing pink flip-flops with 2" soles, a "twirly" red dress and a pink headband with a gigantic bow on it that was too big for her head and required constant tending (plus her hair was long and thick and blew in her face, blinding her). It wasn't that she couldn't play. She played. But she wouldn't/couldn't/didn't leap from rock to rock and certainly wasn't making the big, scary jumps the other girls were making. She watched, but stayed safe, going among 4 rocks, playing more quietly, doing less, stopping often to adjust her hair or clothes. If she were the only girl out there, I'd probably think, "Well, there's a girl playing at the SCIENCE museum in her princess regalia--she's having it both ways!" But the fact was, compared to the other girls, her clothing and hair ornament were circumscribing and completely defining her play. She couldn't move freely. She took fewer risks. She took up less space. She explored less of the area. And she didn't, unlike the other girls, play with the boys because she couldn't keep up. The rest of the kids--girls and boys-- were all playing and working beautifully together making a dam. In fact, I was really touched at how kind the kids were being to one another, across age and sex. They weren't EXCLUDING her, she just couldn't reasonably join in--not given the distance between the rocks, her inability to run or jump in those shoes, her headband popping off at the slightest motion.

Maybe that girl had fun. Maybe she didn't care. But her choice of activity, experimentation, physicality and interaction with other children had all been defined by limitations of her outfit, by the need, at six years old, to look as pretty as a princess....